Car Envy July 31, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet.
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I think my other vehicles are envious of the Harley trip. After being gone for a month and a half neither Jag nor the truck would run. The ’95 XJS just had a dead battery (very very dead) as did the truck. They don’t get a lot of driving anyway so I wasn’t too surprised. The X-Type did finally turn over but had a check engine light and a complete inability to go more than 20 mph even at high rpm.
So I had the X-type towed into the shop, put the charger on the pickup, and used the Harley to run a few errands. Getting back home from getting my chaps fixed (they blew out at 90 mph on the trip and the snaps beat themselves into non-useability in the wind), I saw the truck battery was charged, so I started it up.
I smelled gas, but thought it was just a rough start and went to move the charger over to the XJS… That is when I noticed the gasoline gushing out from a broken fuel line. What are the odds???
Coast-to-Coast Wrap-Up: Wherever you go, there you are. July 31, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: Arco, Atomic, biker, Blue Highways, Coast to Coast, motorcycle, Rides
When I read Blue Highways, I was enrolled in the documentary feeling of the book. I related to the author’s style of travel writing, and found the book inspirational, adding motivation to my own coast to coast journey across America.
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Blue Highways, but plan to, you may want to skip over the next paragraph….
As I neared the end of the book, I kept wondering if or how he would build to a climax and pen a dramatic or poignent conclusion. I wondered whether there would be some sort of epiphany or cosmic realization to tie the whole works together. As I finished the book, I had mixed emotions as the trip wound to an end with only the slightest reflection. On one hand I wanted a strong take-away thought or message, but on the other, I knew that in the real world, trips just end without a Hollywood production finish.
End of Spoiler Alert.
I have traveled enough to know that the best adventures come when you are not looking, and that epiphanies that are sought are rarely found. It is by putting yourself into the circumstances for a great adventure, and then letting go of all expections, that the adventure finds you.
Many people travel with the prime intention of seeing new things. They seek to contrast the lives of those in far away places to their own. They travel to see the landscapes, architecture, history, and attractions that are not found in their own backyards.
On this trip, I definitely experienced that. I saw extraordinary vistas, which I had no way to really anticipate, that left me redefining my own limitations of beauty, awe, and inspiration. Seeing so much of America in such a short time allowed me to compare what was before me, not only to a memory of other places, but to a RECENT memory of what I had seen only a day before. And, traveling by motorcycle allowed me to experience both the sublety and abruptness of the transistions as I was immersed in the environment. The continuity of experience afforded by the openness of the bike was so much more revealing than the digital transitions of stepping into and out of airports while flying across the country.
I found a new appreciation for the diversity of land and culture that our nation has to offer. Living so near the concrete ribbon between Balitmore and DC, I was heartened by the grandeur of our National Parks, preserving the natural beauty of our country.
But more powerfully than the diversity, it is the sameness that I found to inspiring. When I was in Wheeling, West Virgina on the last night of the trip, I was asked many questions about my ride: Where is the best food? Where is the most beautiful landscape? What was the most interesting thing you saw? Where are the nicest people?
It was at that moment that one of two journey epiphanies found me.
These superlative-seeking queries were unanswerable. I had seen incomperable beauty across the nation. Nearly every stop possessed something new and interesting, even if only in an oddity sense. And nearly every interaction with other people was a friendly, hospitable, and at least once, a life-saving exchange. There was no triage to find the “best of”; the “best” is everywhere.
So what are the odds that my house (or yours) is located in an extraordinarily rare part of the country that is devoid of great people, interesting sights, and great food?? Pretty darn slim. While it should be obvious, familiarity with our own locales can desensitize us to the fact that our town is an exciting, adventure-filled destination for someone else, and we have the fortune of living in it.
The other realization was a more subtle, more reflective, very personal understanding that slowly evolved riding through the small communities of America. While I am reticent to explore its full depth in this forum, its point is too important to remain completely tacit. The upshot is that in this world of “have-to’s”, “need-to’s”, and “shoulds” the quality of “importance” can be externally thrust upon what we do, turning life into the constant fulfillment of obligation, rather than the encouraging the self-authoring of a life story. We are in danger of being stuck by circumstance, and forgetting what makes us happy.
The importance of Atomic Days in Arco was not an imposed community ethos. While it may have been to some, for the people I spoke to, the event was theirs. They owned it. They made it important, and they derived great happiness in its anticipation. From Howard Hughes’ manure spreader, to Austin’s Spam Museum, to the Silver Dragon in Vandalia, to Cadillac Ranch, all these things were made important by the people to chose to make them so. I was reminded that we should not lose sight of our freedom to choose what is important to us.
Being on the road for such a long time provides the opportunity to clean the slate, to forget the mundane, and live for the next adventure. We have the chance for re-invention of self, if we choose to take it. In travel, we can learn how to appreciate whatever comes next, whether it is having a good meal, taking a slow ride through a small town, or enduring a story-worthy adversity.
So, now my goal is to carry these lessons back into “normal” life, and to remember to exercise my freedom to choose what is important, and to approach each day open to experience to whatever adventures may find me, because I know the chances of living in the only adventure-free part of the country are pretty small.
And, if I find that I am “not having any fun”, it probably means I have been “on the interstate” for too long “pressing for miles”, and should find a less-traveled route to regain the ride.
Thank you all very much for following the ride. I have truly appreciated and been inspired by your comments, tweets, and posts. It was great to be kept company by your thoughts and well-wishes on the trip.
C2C Ride: Some numbers July 31, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: ABCs of Touring, biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, Las Vegas, motorcycle, Ribeye, Rides
Trip wrap-up is still in the works… but here are a few numbers for those of you who like such things…
Between the two loops I had travelled 10,553 miles bringing my odometer to 44,531.
3200 miles was to attend the LRO/LCROSS launch, but a breakdown in Florida forced a ride extension to make a meeting in Huntsville, AL that I could no longer fly to. The Florida loop marks my southern-most excursion on the bike in Sebastian, Florida at a latitude of N27 °49.1491′.
7,353 miles was the loop to California. This loop marks my northern-most point in Boardman, Oregon at latitude N45° 50.4500′ and my farthest west point in Wolf Creek, Oregon at longitude W123° 23.6230′.
I was on the road a total of 47 days: 21 on the Florida loop (much of which working LRO/LCROSS while in Florida), and 26 days on the California loop (including a short-week family reunion in wine country). I had a total of 4 days at home between the two trips, so while my C2C Blog day count is only for the California vacation portion, I tend to count both loops as I single trip for totals.
During the combined trip I was in 2 countries, 35 states, and 1 province. and traveled the coasts of 2 oceans. I accumlated 62 ABC points (14 on the FL loop, 48 on the CA loop) bring my current 2009 total to 90 points (which gets all the free stuff but a big margin, but is no where close to winning the awards for the top 3 + 10 runners up).
I had 2 breakdowns significant enough to warrant a trailer (both on the Florida loop), and made a total of 5 service stops including:
- 35,000 mile service (FL)
- Fuel pump replacement (FL #2)
- Battery replacement (AL)
- Taillight terminal board replacement (SD)
- Tire replacement (SD)
- 38,000 mile (interim optional) service (SD)
- 40,000 service including fork oil replacement (CA)
- Jiffystand realignment (CA)
- Fuel check valve replacement (CA)
And am now due for 45,000 service shortly.
I stayed in 26 hotels/motels/resorts, 1 campground, and 2 homes of relatives for 30 different waking up locations over 51 days (including home).
I won a total of $191 dollars and three $15 dollar bar tabs in four sessions of gambling, and had my room comp’d in Vegas.
I had three (official) interactions with three law enforcement officers resulting in one warning for speeding, one verbal notice of my taillight being out, and one citation for speeding.
I experienced two bouts of heat exhaustion (curiously coincident with the speeding violations), and saw the highest temperature in which I had ridden, 115°F.
I had four paid admissions to National Parks and Monuments, and countless free-access rides to many more National forest, preserve, nature, and historical areas.
I traveled by motorcycle, ferry, train (the Wine Train), and bus (when the Wine Train broke down). I went to four museums.
I ate 5 ribeyes, and an embarrassing amount of fast food. I discovered a penchant for Red Bull.
I only lost one shirt, and bought 6. I shipped to myself a total of 4 times (twice on the Florida loop to accommodate the volume of work-related luggage, and twice on the CA loop to unfetter myself of purchases and unused camping gear).
Cost? I probably won’t even try to figure out how much I spent.
Up next… the Wrap Up.
C2C Day 26: The Final Stretch July 28, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, LCROSS, LRO, motorcycle, Pennsylvania, Rides
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I arose late from the festivities of the night prior, and again packed up the gear and loaded the motorcycle, but this time I knew was the last for this journey. Unlike some previous trips, my thoughts at the “last packing” were quite neutral. It seems most vacations are either “too short” leaving one thinking it is not yet time to be going home, or “too long” inducing a heightened eagerness to get going. Perhaps it is the nature of being on the road such that the packing and unpacking is more of a daily routine than a milestone, but I felt I had been gone for just long enough: not too long, not too short — and I was happy to go going home.
I gassed up and continued along US-40 though Wheeling until it met up with I-70E. I rode into Pennsylvania, stopping in a truck stop for a red bull and Advil, and plotted my course to Indiana County. I continued east on I-70 crossing my outbound track on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, picking up toll road SR-66 a short while later. I took SR-66 north to US-22 toward Blairsville to pick up my final county. Unfortunately, US-22 was one long 35-40 mph construction zone, and the sign for Indiana County completely inaccessible. I stopped in Blairsville at the local hardware store and asked about the whereabouts of any other Indiana County signs (courthouses, county road maintenance buildings, county offices, anything…) and was told that Indiana, PA would be my best bet. I blindly started up SR-217 toward Indiana, when it dawned on me that SR-217 southbound must cross the Indiana County line without taking me further off-route; hopefully the sign would be accessible given that the county line is a river.
Heading south looking over my shoulder at the northbound signs, I found it just at the start of a bridge with the narrowest of shoulders leading up to it. The road was narrow and had recently been chip-sealed. Construction trucks (presumably going to and from the morass on US-22) were speeding up and down the narrow road throwing gravel at anyone dumb enough to be parked where I was. Playing a bit of real-life Frogger, I dodged traffic to get my ABCs pic completing my list of 25 counties from A to Z (there is no “X” county). I got back on the bike, managed a U-turn, and continued south on SR-217 as the sky started to look threatening.
I pulled over in the parking lot of a closed restaurant with a “Welcome Bikers” sign out front and adjusted my gear a bit in preparation for rain. Snapping one end-of-journey self portrait in my mirror before stowing the camera in a sandwich bag, I saddled up and rode south to US-30, the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway was the first coast to coast highway running from New York to San Francisco. US-30 subsumed the Lincoln Highway running from Atlantic City to Astoria, Oregon keeping the nickname.
I have traveled many Pennsylvania sections of US-30 in the past, and have really enjoyed the scenery and small towns it offers. Unfortunately, US-30 consists for very long lengths of “no passing” zones which can destroy an otherwise great ride when there is traffic. But today on a mid-day Monday, the road was reasonably clear (at least from SR-217 to Breezewood) and the ride was enjoyable.
Somewhere near Stoystown the sky was really looking ugly and the air had that feeling of oncoming rain. I pulled over to don the raingear, questioning myself as I was doing so, as the sun started coming out again. I figured I’d be better off with it, and the forecast was calling for storms, so I kept gearing up. Getting back on the road, within an eighth of a mile, I hit, not rain, but wet, very wet roads like they had just been deluged by a storm. I was glad to have the rain pants on as my legs and the bike became saturated with road spray. Then within a few miles… dry roads again.
I had been really lucky on this trip with weather, hitting only two patches of rain worth mentioning (outbound PA and leaving Yellowstone) and this is despite so many forecasts for storms on my route. I had managed to be a fraction of a day ahead or behind avoiding the weather an unbelievable number of times:
- en route to Sturgis, threading the needle between two storms;
- the day after leaving SD, tornadoes and storms hit behind me;
- in the desert of eastern Kern County, CA there were storms, hail, and 62 mph gusts within miles from where I was recovering from heat stroke.
- the day after leaving Vegas, torrential rain and mudslides hit behind me;
- in the happenstance of an early stop for laundry in Kanab, thunderstorms deluged the area while I was safely in the hotel blogging and folding laundry;
- the day prior to my arrival in Amarillo the temperatures were in the 100′s; when I arrived it was 76°
- about to cross into Illinois, T-storms and hail passed quicker than forecast letting me skirt the northwest edge of the southeast-bound storm.
I was making good time and stopped about 150 miles from home in mid afternoon at a little diner at Reels Corners where SR-160 intersects with US-30. After a ribeye sandwich and iced tea, I headed outside and chatted with a couple from Seattle who were out on their Road King. They flew in and bought the Road King to ride while there, and will sell it when they leave. Not a bad plan given the cost of renting. I talked with the gentleman, Skip, for a while. Skip had recently retired from civil service working with the Navy. He also happens to be an avid space enthusiast. He was actually down in Cocoa Beach for the scrubbed shuttle launches at the same time I was there for the LRO/LCROSS launch . Unfortunately, he didn’t know that LRO/LCROSS was going on June 18th, and he has flown home right after the shuttle scrub on the 17th. He was sincerely disappointed at missing the Atlas V launch of LRO/LCROSS. As consolation of his misfortune, I gave him an LRO/LCROSS mission pin which really seemed to make his day. We talked a while longer about adversity on rides, and how that is where all the good stories come from. We said our goodbyes and he went into the restaurant to join his wife, with his new pin already on his biker vest.
The rest of the ride was pretty routine. The weather had grown quite hot and humid, and I started questioning my logic of wearing my raingear. Even if I were to hit a downpour, I’d be home in a few hours with a shower and fresh clothes anyway. I pulled over and stowed the gear and continued on to Breezewood, PA, the quintessential rest stop. From what I have seen of Breezewood, the entire town’s economy is based upon travelers needing gas, food, and lodging. About 130 miles from home, it is a good fuel-topping point in either direction. From there — a nearly normal interstate ride home, except for a crash about halfway causing a 2 mile backup (was really glad I ditched the raingear as I melted over my hot pipes).
Arriving home is a little jarring in a low-key kind of way. I had spent really more than a month on the road, home for only 4 days between the Florida trip and the California trip, and totally disconnected from work for the latter. In that time I pretty much lived in a microcosm of the trip not thinking about my to-do lists and normal responsibilities. Arriving in my driveway there was a feeling of: ”Huh. It’s over. Now what?”
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the grass was not as overgrown in the last three weeks as it was when I returned from the Florida ride in June. The pile of mail is intimidating, and I don’t even want to think about what is in my work email inbox. I have budgeted a week to transition back to real-life, and will likely take every minute to do so.
Wait, wait. There’s more. Still coming…. The Wrap Up
C2C Day 25: The Big Lebowski? July 26, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: ABCs of Touring, biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, motorcycle, Ohio, Rides, West Virginia, Wheeling
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Having found the spirit of the ride again, I left Brazil on I-70 only to avoid backtracking to get back to US-40, but soon hopped off to rejoin the National Highway. US-40 was the first highway build with federal funds, authorized by Congress in 1806 in the Jefferson administration. US-40 runs locally through Maryland, and I had traveled it in the more mundane sense quite a lot, but out here in Indiana, it was an old friend offering portions of country scenery interspersed with small towns tempting me to stop to just look around.
While taking US-40 though cities was bound to be interesting (I had through Terre Haute and several times in Baltimore), and I had recaptured my philosophy of taking my time a bit more, I knew that mid-day city riding was going to slow me down just a bit to much to justify “sight-seeing” alone. So as I approached Indianapolis I hopped by on I-70, and rejoined US-40 in Greenfield.
Crossing into Ohio, I left US-40 for US-35 toward my next prime objective of the return trip: Xenia, OH. Apparently Xenia is primarily known for being obliterated by a tornado in 1974 during a super-outburst that spawned 148 tornadoes in the Midwest in a 24 hour period. But to HOG members, Xenia is the holy grail ABCs of Touring: the “X” point. Entering from the east of town, I found a much larger, newer community, than when I made the quick in-an-out from the south last October (though I must say, the older parts had more character). Collecting my point, I rode on up US-42 to rejoin I-70. I was now within my “normal weekend riding range” of home, and was now ok with being on the interstate.
I rode along wondering where to stop next. Had I no other destination but home, I could have stopped anywhere after Xenia and been home the next day with a reasonably easy ride, but I still needed one more county: Indiana, PA. “I” counties are very infrequent, and it was all I had left on my county list (after riding through TWO of them without a picture in Michigan). I wanted tomorrow’s ride to be nice, easy, and early to facilitate my transition back to “real life”, plus the expectation of east coast thunderstorms gave me an impetus to reduce the last day’s miles.
As I rode down I-70, I almost stopped in Zanesville, almost in Cambridge, and almost in St. Clair, but pressed on toward Wheeling, WV. Getting off I-70 and back onto US-40 just after crossing the Ohio River, I rode through some older, eclectic parts of Wheeling. Having plowed though on I-70 several times before, I made a mental note to come back to explore it more fully.
I didn’t really take the “proper> amount of time to check out my possibilities and pulled into the Hampton Inn upon seeing it – but it turned out very well. The hotel was in the middle of renovations, and my room was very nice and reasonably priced for what it was. Right across the road were a couple of bars and restaurants allowing me to leave the bike parked in covered parking and proceed on foot.
Armed with my laptop, I went to The 19th Hole, which the hotel clerk recommended as one of the more “interesting” bars in the area. As you would have to know by now, my objectives for food and drink on travel are to experience the local flavor. The watering holes where the locals come to have fun in their own local way are what I seek… and this place hit the jackpot for people watching and random conversation. And being only a short walk from the hotel afforded me a longer evening than I typically have.
I started out talking with a Safety Inspector, Kelly, who was a veritable atlas of the 5-state region giving me more route advice than I can remember. I spoke briefly with Tom the fire fighter a bit about the my ride and about the Wheeling bar scene. There was a small group of women out to drown a “bad day” compiling a list of pickup lines on a legal pad from the remainder of bar. One of the “bad day” group was there with her boyfriend, who uncannily had both the looks and personality of Diedrich Bader. The activity in the bar moved around in waves as the night grew on with a focus forming about the more hearty revelers from the “bad day” group. I spent quite a bit of time talking with a guy and girl from the restaurant across the street. She had just moved back home from Florida as the economy drove her rent up and her tips down. He was a former cocaine dealer who recently spent five years in prison. You’d not know it to talk to him; he had a really great demeanor, enjoying everything that was happening around him. “Good stuff” was quickly becoming his catch phrase in response to all the chaos, drama, and absurdity unfolding in the bar.
I was reminded of my Chincoteague ride, stopping in a local pub on St. Paddy’s day when four bar fights broke out. Though there were no bar fights this night (almost one at the pool table), it was one of the more raucous evenings of the trip. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of interesting people, and was told three times by three separate groups that I looked like The Dude (Jeff Bridges) in The Big Lebowski — I guess being on a Harley for a month can have that effect on a person.
C2C Day 21 to 24: Devil’s Highway to Brazil July 25, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: ABCs of Touring, Amarillo, biker, Coast to Coast, Demolition Derby, Devil's Highway, Indiana, Mexican Hat, motorcycle, New Mexico, Rides, Route 66, Texas
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I woke very early in Mexican Hat and packed the bike at around 4:30. The night sky was spectacular. I realized it was really the first totally cloudless, lightless night that I had seen on the trip. Venus was again shining brightly, but the moon had since revolved around to align itself with the sun causing the solar eclipse that was in the news. The ebon night was was lit only by the light of billions of stars. The milky way was showing clearly as a streak of luminescence in the sky. It was beautiful.
With the bike packed, I silently rolled the Harley down the hill away from the rooms to the front of the motel so as not to wake the other guests at this early hour. Starting up, I rode the short stretch through Mexican Hat and out of town on US-163 heading north. The predawn glow was in the east creating an incredible silhouette of mesas and rock formations. To my right I could just see the outline of the town’s namesake, Mexican Hat Rock as the glow emanated from between two ridges. I rode on, my eyes beginning to make out features in the dim predawn light, the landscape taking on an eerie character. Though amazed at my environs, I couldn’t help but be distracted by a niggling thought that I was forgetting something… My mind was going thought my inventory as I passed the Valley of the Gods, an area that may lack the scale of Monument Valley but made up for it with character and proximity. I continued to ride until 12 miles out of town I realized that my room key was still in my pocket, and it was not one of those cheap plastic cards, but a real key on an imprinted brass fob. Turning around, I rode back to town, dropped off the key, and headed back out again, affording two more viewings of Mexican Hat Rock and the Valley as the glow of the emergent sun increased.
Soon after, the sun began to emerge and I was picking up US-191 south heading back into Arizona. I headed east on US-160, stopping at the Red Mesa trading post west of Teec Nos Pos on the Navajo Reservation for coffee and breakfast. It was quite active for the early morning. An older couple sat drinking coffee speaking (presumably) Navajo, I language I’d not heard before. I contemplated the evolution of language and how the language itself mirrors the culture from which it came, and wondered if and how their language has adapted to contemporary times.
I gassed up and continued east on US-160 as it nipped the corner of New Mexico and entered the corner of Colorado. Getting my ABCs pic for CO, I backtracked to go to Four Corners: the point where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado all converge to a single point memorialized by a small monumental platform. I suppose it was worth the price of admission, but seemed a bit sparse. Then again, just how much can one do for a point on the ground? While there I met up with two bikers from Wisconsin (the only other patrons of the monument) who where heading to the Grand Canyon. We talked about our rides, sights in Wisconsin, and our experiences of the ferries between Wisconsin and Michigan.
Backtracking on US-160 took me to US-64 which I rode into Shiprock, New Mexico. The movie Natural Born Killers mentions Shiprock, when Robert Downy junior’s character, pulp news sensationalist, Wayne Gale, lists off the towns on the infamous Highway 666. When I was at my cousin’s place in Oregon, she pointed it out to me on her atlas and said that I had to get a picture of the bike with a US-666 sign. Well, it turns out that her atlas predates the renaming of US-666 to US-491. Despite an innocent enough origin of naming (it is apparently the 6th spur off of the former Route 66 according to Wikipedia), It turns out that the reputation of the Devil’s Highway drew a lot of sign thieves and risk takers resulting in a lot of thefts and traffic fatalities, so Arizona petitioned to have the name changed, which happened in 2003.
Regardless of the potential cool-factor of the road, my DeLorme mapping software chose US-491 to I-44 in Gallop, NM as my “quickest” route home, so I set off down another piece of Americana. This turned out to be a significant error. My mistake was not so much the road as not looking at my hardcopy atlas. US-491 is one of the most boringly straight roads I could have chosen. Passing uneventfully from Shiprock to Gallop, I was amazed that any “risk taker” could find a way to hurt himself on this road, shy of rear-ending someone at 150 mph. What’s worse, there were no US-666 signs… not “Old 666″… not “Historic 666″‘ So pretty much a let down on all fronts.
My alternative (had I looked at my map sooner) was to take US-64 on what appeared to be a delightfully twisty route Taos, NM. Instead, I had monotony leading to more monotony in the form of I-40.
In Gallop, I gassed up and met another group of bikers coming home from riding in Alaska: a very diverse group of quite talkative personalities from Louisiana. We left at the same time; I ended up riding in their group for a few tens of miles until they pulled off (presumably for a more interesting ride). I continued on I-40 with my objective being Albuquerque, NM for my day’s stop.
I had left Mexican Hat early with the idea of beating the heat. The “problem” today was that the heat never materialized. So rather than stop, I pressed on riding 660 miles that day to Amarillo, Texas (all interstate from Gallop on).
I pulled into Amarillo in the early evening and stopped at the Harley dealership on the west end of town to buy a shirt and find out where the best/nearest biker bars were. I got a strong recommendation for a little roadside restaurant called Smokey Joe’s on Historic Route 66 – so I headed there. Pulling into the motorcycle parking right out front, I found a table on the patio right behind my bike and ordered a beer. A biker at a nearby table, Sheldon, asked me about my trip which started us talking…
We talked about rides and collecting states. (Sheldon claimed to have all 48 except Virginia. I had to remind him that that would be “47″…) His friend Randy showed up and I got the scoop on the various famous, infamous, and eccentric personalities of Amarillo. I got the in’s and out’s of all the oil money families in the area. I was having a great time, but having done so many miles for so long that day… I had to retire early.
I got the the hotel exhausted. It was the first time on the trip that my backside actually got sore (the most common question when telling non-riders about my trip) and my back was aching.
The next morning I was up not too early, packed the bike and hit the I-40 interstate again, to Oklahoma City picking up I-44 toward Tulsa. It was another boring “ride for miles”, without the advantage of an early start, and today there was heat. By late afternoon going through Tulsa, I was fortunate enough to perceive that I would soon be headed for another bout of heat exhaustion. To avoid it, I pulled over at a truck stop with wifi northeast of town and hung out for an hour in the AC drinking lots of water and Gatorade and planning my route.
I figured to press due east on US 421 toward Arkansas, and would stop for the night at the first interesting motel I would find. Getting back on the road I immediately made a wrong turn losing 421. Even though I wasn’t much further than the truck stop, that little error broke my momentum and I stopped at a convenience store near the Hard Rock Casino for lodging and entertainment advice. An amicable local whose name escapes me recommended a couple of local bars near “a local motel”, and he went to far as to lead me there on his way home. Unfortunately the “local motel ” was an over-priced Holiday Inn Express. I almost headed back on 421 but had lost a lot of time and instead checked in. I debated whether to go the the Redneck Bar next door (not a slur… that’s the name of the place) or to go over to the casino to parlay my meager Vegas winnings into something worth writing home about. In the end I did neither… I was again very “tired” and called it an early night.
The next morning was the same… Pack the bike and head out. This time not on the interstate right away, but on a mission nonetheless. I headed east on US-421 to pick up Arkansas, then I cut back into Oklahoma heading north to pick up Kansas. I was then back on the interstate plowing across Missouri with an objective of making St. Louis. Making it only to Sullivan before I had to crash, I was quickly realizing I was no longer having any fun.
I was plowing through miles, not seeing the country, not having adventures… totally defeating the reasons for the trip. Like a losing gambler reaching for his ATM card, I foolishly went “looking for adventure” in Sullivan — which of course never works out. I retired to my room tired and disappointed and wondering what happened to the ride.
The next morning, with another late start… and a lot of soul searching… and a conscious decision to GET OFF THE INTERSTATE and STOP RIDING FOR MILES, I set out. I rode up I-44 but got off on US-40 a short while later. It was an immediate relief, until I looked over and saw that I was paralleling I-44, seeing the same scenery along the same route… just making worse time. I was half-thinking about chucking the whole thing and hitting the interstate again to at least get the miles… until I hit Vandalia finding…
Now THIS you don’t see on the interstate. The big silver dragon in the middle of rural Illinois was exactly what I needed to see. I was immediately taken back to the campsite in southeast Minnesota, hearing a young flautist slowly piping Puff the Magic Dragon. I vowed to stay off the interstate until I was within my “normal” weekend riding range of home.
I continued on up US-40, “National Highway” riding through non-extraordinary countryside, fields, pastures, rolling hills, and trees. Though one may consider it drab compared to the hills of western Wyoming, the mountains of Yellowstone, the coast of the Pacific, the mesas the Southwest… this was real heartland Americana and so wonderful to just cruise. The small towns, each with their own character and pride passed slowly by. Adhering to the speed limits was somehow not problematic. I didn’t make great distances that day… but that was completely ok, and I found the peace I had lost in the three days prior.
I decided to finish the day relatively early as I passed into Brazil, Indiana. Stopping at the Casey’s convenience store I was given lodging and entertainment advice by the clerk who quite obviously hated living in the town. (Lesson learned: Don’t blindly follow such advice. Talk to someone who at least likes living there.) She had steered me to the Howard Johnson’s, which was much farther on the outskirts of town than I hoped. Checking in, I thought this motel which could not possibly have been much worse than the Brazil Motel I had been dissuaded from. But it all worked out well…
On my way to the Ho-Jo’s, I passed the fairgrounds and saw that there was a demolition derby starting in about an hour. After checked in, unpacked, and stopping my a convenience store, I arrived right in time for the National Anthem. There is something about a small town’s solemn respect for the Anthem that you generally don’t see a lot of more populated areas. The stands of people were completely giving it their full attention. Latecomers were stopped in attention right where they were upon hearing the music being sung passionately by a local woman. Her unpolished performance was met with a sincere roar of applause, and the festivities began.
The stands were packed. I’d estimate 700 to 1000 people were there, across all generations from infants to infirmed. The drivers had come from about half the state. The arena was a small patch of mud surrounded by concrete blocks with the spectators a mere 16-20 feet away. While I do have a very vague recollection of having seen a demolition derby once as a child in South Dakota, for all intensive purposes, this was my first one.
The field of 28 main competitors was broken into three heats (8, 10, and 10 cars). They pulled into the pit, parked on the ends facing outward, half on each end. Upon the waving of the green flag, engines roared and mud flew and the two lines of cars raced backwards at each other. The the revs of engines and the crashes of twisting metal filled the air as the competitors smashed into each other until, one by one, each vehicle was either disabled or so wedged into the wreckage of someone else that they couldn’t move. As each car was debilitated, its driver waited patiently amidst the chaos waiting for the heat to end, as the other cars performed an amazingly coarse ballet of destruction about them, carefully avoiding the eliminated competitor. There were no roll bars, harnesses, or nomex suits – just a helmet, eye protection, and seat belt (shoulder optional). The heat would end when two drivers remained to go onto the main event.
At the end of each heat, tractors and backhoes would extricate the wreckage, and the audience made a dash for the concessions stand for warm aluminum-foiled pre-made burgers, nachos with that viscous, orange cheese-like sauce with the skin-forming, or that great super-oily/salty popcorn you only find at a fair.
They ran three heats of cars, one of trucks, two consolation heats for the losers who could get their cars running again to have a shot at the main, one for compact cars, and then finally the main event. I had a great time. There is a reason accident rubber-necking slows a morning commute, because the amount of damage two vehicles can do to one another can be quite fascinating.
As the evening progressed, it cooled off under clear black skies. I large lightening storm was presenting a great show over the flat open land safely south of town. I rode back to the motel eerily vacant with only about a half dozen cars in the lot. My room was in the most desolate location on the far side of the outer building looking south across a field. Not a single car was back there, but there was one sole light in the room above me that went out as I pulled up, leaving a Bates Motel aura as I went to turn in.
I went to bed feeling a “good tired”. Three days ago I took a turn onto the Devil’s Highway and lost the ride, but today I found it again, and in doing so adventure once again found me.
C2C Day 20: Swinging Ribeye July 21, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: Arizona, biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, Mexican Hat, motorcycle, Ribeye, Rides, steak, Utah
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Some time ago I watched a miniseries on the Food Network called Feasting on Asphalt, where the host, Alton Brown rode his motorcycle across America eating only “road food “- i.e. dining only on that which one finds in the little local roadside cafes, diners, and dives. He had two rules: Avoid the interstates where possible, and absolutely no chain restaurants. The show is really quite inspirational both from a biker and “foodie” point of view. In the first series he went to three places that I vowed I would as well: B&R Old Fashioned hamburgers in Hawthorne, CA; Dino’s Dogs also in Hawthorne, and the Mexican Hat Lodge in Mexican Hat, UT. I had gone to the first two on business trips to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA during the development of the LCROSS spacecraft. …but that is another story. This one deals with the Mexican Hat Lodge’s Swinging Ribeye.
I was quite lucky bedding down in Kanab the day before. The weather in the entire area turned quite nasty for riding and I managed to get a lot of work done on the blog. That evening, I enjoyed a nice cesar salad, ribeye, and a couple of glasses of wine at their at the Rocking V there in Kanab (I recommend it.)
Having started the trend of departing early to beat the heat, I stood to arrive at Mexican Hat quite early. I packed the bike and left Kanab, UT via US-89 to Page, AZ. It was a very pleasant morning ride with great scenary. Lake Powell seemed starkly (but beautifully) desolate. There were housing developments going up there, and while I found the scenery quite lovely to look at, the whole aura of the place has a harshness that would preclude me from building a house to live there. Lake Powell is formed by the Glen Canyon Dam which is crossed by US-89. Crossing over and seeing the resulting canyon was really amazing. Sheer red walls to the Colorado River far far below. I was very impressed (again).
I got off US-89 to enter Page to find gas and coffee. The town is not that old, established in 1957. I rather liked it. It is a well proportioned blend of city convenience, country friendliness, and rustic scenery. I would like to go back and spend more time there.
Standing out in front of the Circle K while drinking my morning coffee, my bike caught the attention of a gentleman who asked me about my trip. We chatted for a while. Orginally from Alabama, he and his wife rode around the countryside the on his Harley for eight years until she developed MS. She started having trouble with the heat, and getting on and off the bike. When he would start the engine, tears would come to her eyes at the thought of him being on the road without her. So he sold the bike, and bought her a convertible: their “Harley with a windshield”. He stood staring at my bike as he spoke. We wished me well and advised that I keep riding for as long as I can.
I went back to US-89 south to pick up SR-98 crossing into the Navajo Indian Reservation. The road that early morning was very desolate, the kind of conditions I love to ride. The scenery continued to wow me with so many beautiful erosion-induced rock formations, mesas, ravines, and washes.
On SR-98, I happend upon another biker (Jim) coming the opposite direction who was just pulling over to the shoulder looking back at the road behind him as if something had fallen off… something vital had. I pulled over and asked if he needed assistance. He had lost his cup… a special cup for his Capt’ Morgan and water that he carries with him. Figuring there was little I could do about that, other than keep my eyes peeled, I wished him good luck and continued on scanning the road. Until about a mile up, I saw a steel cylinder lying in the middle of the road. I pulled over and picked up the cup just as Jim was coming up behind. He stopped his bike and we got to talking about our trips. Jim had been laid off a while back and decided now was the time for a big trip. Dipping into his 401k, he was travelling a western states route meeting up with friends along the way. Monterey, CA was on his agenda, so I told him about the CA-1 ride a few days earlier. We talked for a while longer and went our separate ways.
I picked up US-160 to US-163 which head back into Utah. The scenary was nice: wide open spaces with large mesas and rock formations in the distance. I approached Monument Valley; the road seemed to be guarded by two memorable formations. On the right Agathia Peak rising powerfully and majestically up from the plain. On the left, Owl Rock perched upon a ridge (though to me, at certain angles, it looked oddly like the bassett hound god). Riding closer, more mesas and formations reached from the earth. While very impressive, the distance lacked the intimacy I had experienced at Zion National Park. I started up the road to the park entrance, but slowed and turned back feeling that given the distances, even the park view would not be much better than that from the road.
I continued up US-163 to Mexican Hat, a tiny little town on the San Juan river named after a nearby rock formation. As you may have seen from my earlier megatweet, I had arranged to stay in the Lodge TeePee thinking that was pretty much all that was available. I was warned that the TeePee was not particularly comfortable in the heat, and the heat was coming on as I arrived in early afternoon. It had no shower or bathroom, though there was a campground shower/bathroom available. But one of the biggest drawbacks was no wifi, and I had an afternoon free to work on the blog.
I still regret the the decision to cancel the TeePee. I ended up in the San Juan motel by the river. Small but comfortable, and I managed to crank out three days worth of blog articles that afternoon… So I guess it was good in the practical sense, but I still kind of rue the decision.
The Mexican Hat Lodge was open for steaks at 6:oopm, so I worked on the blogs, got a shower and rode over. It was better than I remembered in the show. It was outdoor dining with the tables set up in a small patio where the infamous grill was set: a long metal box housing the wood fire, and over it, a large rectanguler grill swinging lazily back and forth over the flames. The setup is great and allowing great conversation with the owner as he is cooking. I talked with him for quite a while, a really amicable gentleman. I identified myself as the guy that backed out of the TeePee - he had no problem at all, and rented it soon after I cancelled. (Mexican Hat was packed) I told him my story of seeing him on the Food Network and planning my return ride around this steak. We talked for a while about flame cooking and steaks (how each individual steak has its own personality) and a little about country music.
As the story goes, years ago he ran out of coals to cook the steaks and was forced to cook with wood. But cooking over an open flame was so time intensive to avoid overooking, that he didn’t have time to tend the wood and fire. So, he rigged up the swing to keep the steaks in a constant flame-kissed state without burning up. Personally I love the taste of meat kissed by wood or charcoal flame much better than the radiant heat of coals or especially gas. So this was a dream come true for me.
The menu was focused on the meat. An 18 ounce Ribeye, a 12 ounce New York Strip, an 8 ounce burger (I think there was chicken in there as well)… For sides: beans and salad with the house dressing. That’s it… no other veggies or substitutions. Clear, simple, and carnivorous. The meal is served on one of those hot metal plates. The metal plates are kept in the top on an antique wood burning stove. When the steak is ready, a plate is pulled from the stove and a ladle of beans is added with a hiss. The salad is place in the middle right on top of the bean spillover, and the steak added at the end.
The steak was excellent. My preferred preperation is charred medium rare, which is quite difficult to do with a cut as thick as 18 ounce. Mine still had a bit of “moo” in the middle, but he had no problems at all with throwing the middle back on for a little while essentially creating two great meals for me with a little break in between.
Though the band wasn’t playing that night, I spoke with the band leader (who I think is the owner’s father). Ialso had a great conversation and chance to practice speaking German with a charming mother/daughter travelling team from northern Germany who were touring the western US before heading on a New York shopping spree.
With my stomach full, I made a fairly early evening of it, again figuring to rise early to beat the heat, but stayed up quite a bit later than I planned adding photos to the blog… at least I got caught up a bit, justifying the TeePee for wifi trade… Maybe??
C2C Day 19: Zion July 20, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
Tags: ABCs of Touring, biker, Coast to Coast, Harley, Las Vegas, motorcycle, Rides, Utah, Zion
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Another spectacular ride today from Las Vegas to Kanab, Utah. I am holed up in the biker-friendly Treasure Trail Motel with a great wifi connection (relative to most of my experience this trip), newly washed clothes, and time to relax, blog, and plan.
True to my late decision last night, my body woke me up 5 minutes before the 3am alarm. Of course my Vegas hotel did not have coffee in the room, presumably so I’d be forced down to the casino faster. It took time, a lot of water, and a shower to finally get me going. I packed up my gear and headed down to check out, glad (but not surprised) to have my room comp’d after yesterday’s marathon o’gambling.
Walking out to the bike at 4:20 am, the heat was already oppressive. It had apparently rained not long before, so the humidity was up as well. I had parked the bike in the employee’s level of the valet garage (a special priviledge offered to their motorcycling patrons given the rash of Harley thefts of late). I was relieved to see mine still there.
The bellman was volunteering motorcycle movie recommendations as I packed the bike, and went so far as to xerox the cover of the movie he was watching that morning (a Tarantino film called Hell Ride). After getting directions to the nearest gas station, I headed out onto the streets of Vegas. I had been to Vegas many times before, but almost always travelled by cab or limo, and mostly just up and down the strip, so I had never really seen the side streets of Sin City until now. Interestingly diverse olio of businesses…
It was still a bit before sunrise when I got myself back on I-15 heading north. As dawn broke, I could see the sunlight just illuminating the tops of distant storm clouds. To my right, an active storm system (probably the one that left Vegas in a muggy morning state) was giving a lightning show in the pre-dawn glow. The alien landscape, flat desert with not too distant mountians, lay on either side of me as I sped along. It was getting to be full light as I approached the tiny town of Glendale on the far side of the Moapa River Indian Reservation. I stopped for a coffee and to ditch my reflective vest. The gas station convenience store looked like a converted double-wide, but had the basics. Coffee was free if you brought your own cup. I paid $1.14 for the cup.
Moving on, I started passing the border casinos/resorts assuming their main customers to be folks from Arizona or Utah who wanted to drive as little as possible to gamble, or those who decide they want just one more night after leaving Vegas.
I-15 just nips the northwest corner of Arizona running northeast, so I was able to get my ABC pics for Arizona and Utah in short fashion (though under the worst illumination, shooting straight into the rising sun). The little jaunt through Arizona was really beautiful. I-15 winds through the narrows of the Virgin River and though Sullivan Canyon in the Paiute Primative Area. The stark canyon rock under the low angle illumination of the morning sun was breathtaking. The sheer faces and dropping ravines run so close to the interstate that you really feel the sense of being cacooned within the canyon, like walking through a maze.
After a quick stop in Saint George, I got off I-15 onto SR-9 which took me through several resort towns en route to Zion National Park. The landscape kept getting better and better. I really wanted to pull over and spend some time in these little towns, but didn’t know what to expect for heat in my upcoming ride, and wanted to make Kanab early. I did pull over in Springdale for gas. I didn’t really need to, but really wanted to get a picture of the peaks lining the west side of the town, and ditch my jacket. It was really tempting to spend more time there with all the lapidary shops and tourist traps.
At the park entrance, I again uttered my regret at not buying an annual pass for the national parks, paid my $12 and rolled in. The Vistors Center is right near the west entrance and was my first stop to collect my National Parks Passport stamp. Parking was quite full; the park is a mecca for hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts. I was amazed by the diversity and proximity of the wild life just walking from my bike to the visitors center building. In the parking lot, I passed a young deer nibbling on a sapling; I walked past him (her?) as close as your eyes are to this screen right now. He just looked at me with the sapling branch sticking out of the side of his mouth chewing away as if he were hoping I had food, but assuming that I didn’t. Riding out after getting my passport stamp, I was stopped by a ground squirrel who really seemed intent to go the way I was blocking. He fidgeted a couple of feet in front of my bike, then finally gave up and headed for the long grass beside the lot.
Getting back out onto the road, I remembered my Yellowstone experience with slow-moving RVs and tourists, and set my “mood switch” to “patient” in advance. However, the scenery was so beautiful, so magnificently stark and diverse, so close to the winding road, that I found myself going 5 mph under the 35 mph speed limit just to take it all in. One of the things that really sets Zion apart from my other park rides is the intimacy. The road runs through the canyon and very close to the steep faces. From that vantage point even the same face of rock or towering cliff becomes a different entity with new character and composition every few seconds. That is one thing I love about mountains: how they change with every different view; and here at Zion that is a continuous flow. After seeing the enhancement of so many places, I continue to be so struck how the landscape can be so beautiful in ways that I hadn’t seen or imagined.
In the middle of the park is a narrow tunnel cut into the rock. Completed in 1930, that tunnel is 1.1 miles long and unlit. That was cool stretch of road (literally and figuratively), with the low rumble of the Harley resonating off the surrounding rock as I idled along. Periodically, the tunnel was cut out to the side of the mountain, providing blinding flashes of scenic views as I rode throught the darkness.
Leaving the stunning vistas of the park, the highway continued through wonderfully rugged mountian countryside on to Kanab. I had made really good time with my early start, arriving near noon despite my casual pace, and half thought to just press on to Mexican Hat, Utah. But as I rode up and down the streets of Kanab, I felt the temperatures were getting much warmer and I don’t really know what the afternoon climate will be like dripping south into Arizona en route to Mexican Hat (and I do NOT want a third bout of heat exhaustion). Besides, I had laundry, sleeping, and blogging to get caught up on.
Outside the wind has been picking up and thunder has been clapping for the last couple of hours. It is now raining pretty steadily (I covered the bike at the first sprinkles). I was hoping to hop on the bike to check out the only bar near town a little ways down US-89A, but this weather has me reticent to even venture a block down the main street to see what that offers. I wonder if they have pizza delivery here in Kanab…
(UPDATE: They don’t.)
I gotta TeePee!! July 20, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet, Rides.
Tags: ABCs of Touring, biker, Coast to Coast, Mexican Hat, motorcycle, Ribeye, Rides, steak, TeePee, Utah
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I really really hate to admit this, but I have to stay true to the story…
The teepee has no wifi, no bathroom, no shower (which is kind of why it doesn’t rent well). Pulling into Mexican Hat, I saw motels with AC, bathrooms, showers, wifi, and vacancy… so I wimped out and cancelled the Teepee and checked into the San Juan Inn on the San Juan river for about the same price. For the record, I did call the Mex Hat Lodge and asked if they would have any problem with my cancelling in the interest of bath and wifi – and they were cool with it.
This is too wild. As some of you may know, the focus of my southern route home (besides collecting states) was to have a Swinging Ribeye at the Mexican Hat Lodge. Figuring hotel vacancy may be at a premium, I just called to book a room… and of course they were “booked solid”. I told the guy about the trip and how I arranged my southern route for the express purpose of having a Swinging Ribeye — so he is renting me the TeePee! Apparently even when full-up they don’t rent the TeePee as it is a little “uncomfortable”, but it has a bed and it is all mine. You have to see this… I can’t wait. The adventure continues.
Vegas Decision July 20, 2009Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet, Rides.
Tags: Coast to Coast, Las Vegas, Rides
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All things considered – I think I am going to press on to Utah in the early morning targeting only 208 miles to Kanab. Am too tired right now to enjoy Vegas, and the early start would obliterate tomorrow’s night life. I don’t have proper “Vegas clothes” with me anyway. Besides, I am on a ride, not a junket. And the early arrival into Kanab will give me opportunity to further catch up on the blog.
Have finished gambling $91 up, which is an awful lot of work for such a small net movement. Was down as far as $850 and up as far as $200, so I suppose that is all good. (Hoped to have blogged about winning thousands – but hey)
Good night all.